Narrow loss for Kent Kings
Narrow loss for Kent Kings
Kent ‘SLYDE’ Kings slipped to a second defeat in 24 hours in the Tunnel Trophy tussle at Central Park in front of a big Holiday crowd on Easter Monday afternoon, going down 46-43 to new local rivals in the Travel Plus National League [TPNL],  Lakeside Hammers.

Despite the valiant efforts of skipper Luke Bowen who reeled off five classy wins despite even being made to put in an extra lap in the last race, it was the side from just over the Dartford Crossing in Essex who showed the all round resilience to win – even though providing less heat winners than the Kings (8-7). With former King Ben Morley at number one, Lakeside were always going to pose a threat – however it was actually to be another former Kings man, Jamie Couzins who proved the unlikely match winner.
Proceedings started well for the homesters as Bowen made a fast start from the in-form Morley and with Luke Clifton (who’s had a fine start to the 2017 campaign) taking third, Kent were off and running with a 4-2 heat advantage. An eventful reserves race saw new boy Alex Spooner excluded after falling when leading, causing two other riders to take avoiding action.  This set up a rerun in which the New Zealand born Bradley Andrews took his first ever race win in Kent colours.
A second heat advantage in the space of the opening three races arrived courtesy of an assured win from Ben Hopwood, ahead of the other former Kent favourite in the visitors’ ranks, David Mason; and with Jack Thomas taking third, this moved the SLYDE-backed Kings four points ahead (11-7). A maximum heat advantage for Lakeside in Heat 4 though levelled the scores ; and they remained level until another 4-2 from the Bowen/Clifton pairing in heat six put Kent back ahead. However this was to be the last time the Kings led on the afternoon.
A bizarre heat number seven saw a pirouette from Andrews then also Nathan Stoneman taking a tumble; so gifting a maximum heat advantage to the away side that put them two points ahead. This was extended to four after heat eight.
Heat 10 saw the one and only maximum heat advantage for the hosts. Bowen made another great start and his partner Clifton muscled his way inside the Lakeside duo and rode a brilliant race to level the scores once again.  Heat 11 though proved pivotal with a 5-0 heat advantage to Lakeside . In the first staging Stoneman took a very nasty crash where he was launched off the front of his bike into the more solid part of the fence. In the rerun, the Kiwi Andrews was putting in a challenge on Lakeside debutant Jamie Couzins when he buried the bike into the air barrier on bends 1 and 2.  Kent managed a 4-2 in Heat 12 to pull the score back to three points.
The last three races were all shared 3-3 with Bowen beating Zach Wajtknecht twice to complete his maximum (even outlasting his opponent in a heat 15 extended by a lap thanks to a flag marshal malfunction!).  But it was not enough to prevent the Hammers running out winners.
For Couzins, called into the visitors’ ranks only yesterday after impressing at their pre-season trials, it was both a busy day (having a full quota of seven rides) but one he’ll fondly remember also – contributing to two maximum heat wins and scoring a highly credible paid nine points against his old side.
Although Kent were defeated they can take heart in the performances of Bowen, Hopwood and Clifton and also that newcomer Andrews recorded a debut race win.   Kent could yet pull off an aggregate triumph in this two legged affair when the return is held at Lakeside’s Arena Essex Raceway home in Thurrock this coming Friday.   After all, the message of Easter is all about resurrection!

Kent ‘SLYDE’ Kings 43
1. Luke Bowen               3 3 3 3 3               15
2. Luke Clifton                   1 1 2 2′                   6+1
3. Ben Hopwood               3 2 1′ 3 0               9+1
4. Jack Thomas                  1 1′ 2 2                  6+1
5. Nathan Stoneman        0 1 FX                       1
6. Bradley Andrews          3 0 FX 0                   3
7. Alex Spooner                FX 1 0 1 1′               3+1
Lakeside Hammers 46
1. Ben Morley                2 3 3 1′ 1′                  10+2
2. Rider replacement – George Hunter
3. David Mason              2 3 1 2                          8
4. Alfie Bowtell              0 2′ 3 0 3                       8+1
5. Zach Wajtknecht       3 2 3 2 2                        12
6. Nick Laurence            0 2 0 0                             2
7. Jamie Couzins          1′ 2′ 0 1 2′ 0 0                6+3

Heat Results

1 Bowen, Morley, Clifton, Laurence  58.9  (4-2)
2 (rerun) Andrews, Laurence, Couzins, Spooner (fell exc.) 63.8 (7-5)
3  Hopwood, Mason, Thomas, Bowtell  60.0  (11-7)
4 Wajtknecht, Couzins, Spooner, Stoneman 59.3 (12-12)
5 Morley, Hopwood, Thomas, Couzins  62.1 (15-15)
6 (rerun) Bowen, Wajtknecht, Clifton, Laurence  (19-17)
7  Mason, Bowtell, Stoneman, Andrews 62.3  (20-22)
8 (awarded) Bowtell, Clifton, Couzins, Spooner (fell exc.) no time  (22-26)
9  Wajtknecht, Thomas, Hopwood, Laurence 58.9 (25-29)
10 Bowen, Clifton, Mason, Bowtell 60.4 (30-30)
11  (awarded) Morley, Couzins, Andrews (fell exc), Stoneman (fell exc.) no time (30-35)
12 Hopwood, Mason, Spooner, Couzins  61.8 (34-37)
13 Bowen, Wajtknecht, Morley, Andrews 58.7 (37-40)
14 (rerun) Bowtell, Thomas, Spooner, Couzins 61.6  (40-43)
15 Bowen, Wajtknecht, Morley, Hopwood no time (43-46)